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Monthly Archives: November 2010

British Ambassador to Indonesia H.E. Martin Hatfull : Integration, the key to religious tolerance

British Ambassador to Indonesia H.E. Martin Hatfull

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08 November 2010

Opinion article by Ambassador Martin Hatfull about Islam in the UK and religious tolerance. The article is published by the Republika daily on 8 November 2010, page 4.


(KATAKAMI / BRITISH EMBASSY IN INDONESIA) — Recently I was invited to speak to the students of the University of Indonesia, and by, video conference, to a number of other universities around Indonesia. The topic was “Islam in the UK”. This is topical issue as the newspapers here are preoccupied with religious diversity issues at home. In thinking about how to manage diversity issues, there is a lot we can learn from each other. Some Indonesian perceptions of the UK are coloured by a misconception of our approach to different communities within the UK and about our wider approach to foreign policy. So I was keen to talk about and share some of our experiences in the UK and our approach to integration.

Today there are about 2 million Muslims living in the UK; about 3% of our overall population. They come from a variety of different ethnic and religious backgrounds—Asian, Middle Eastern, African and newer British converts, all with their different cultural and religious traditions. It’s impossible to speak of one British Islamic community. The first Muslims arrived in Britain in the 17th century, but significant immigration from largely Muslim countries began in the 1950s. That means that today over half of the Britain’s Muslims were born in the UK. For many of these 3rd generation Muslims, English is their first language. Nowadays Muslims of whatever denomination, of whatever background are thoroughly integrated into British society at all levels: professional, commercial, educational, in the private and the public sector. Your doctor may be a Muslim; the bus driver may be a Muslim. So might your lawyer, your child’s teacher, your local shopkeeper, the owner of the supermarket. One in ten businesses is owned by British Asians, who are mostly Muslims.

We have several thousand Muslim millionaires and more Muslim Parliamentarians than any other Parliament in Europe. We also now have a female Muslim in the Cabinet—Baroness Warsi—who was profiled in the Indonesian media recently. I have a growing number of Muslim colleagues, including here in Jakarta. And there are many Muslim NGOs who provide substantial assistance e.g. Islamic Relief in Aceh, and both Muslim and non-Muslim NGOs working together to help with the floods in Pakistan. Muslims in Britain are an integral part of society, where religion is seen as a private matter and individuals are accepted for who they are.

I remember the astonishment of one Indonesian visitor to the UK, who was stopped in Oxford St and asked for directions. In recounting this to me afterwards, she gestured to her jilbab: “Do I look British?” The answer is: “you don’t look un-British”.
A key element in this approach to integration is the law. Like any other religion, the religious identity of Muslims in the UK is protected by law. The UK’s constitution includes freedom of thought, expression, religion, worship—these freedoms are guaranteed by law for members of every community. There are over 600 mosques and over 100 Islamic schools in the UK, all protected by law. Most UK Muslims feel a strong sense of being both British and Muslim: opinion pools in 2009 suggest that over 90% of Bangladeshi and Pakistani respondents felt that they belonged strongly to the UK.

Of course no society is perfect. People do not always get along with their neighbours; many of us in every society are resistant to change. And crime committed by a few misguided individuals can change the way a community is regarded.

But as a Government we focus on the guiding principle of integration, and this forms an important part of the Government’s agenda. Theresa May, our Home Secretary, recently said “We believe in people throughout our country, from all communities, coming together, working together, supporting and trusting each other”.

Part of our work towards integration, she went on, is challenging extremists “who oppose this and want to drive us apart”. We work hard to overcome these challenges, encourage integration and punish persecution or harassment of religious minorities. We don’t always get it right, but we do so enough to give minorities the confidence to know that they are protected under the law.

Finally the UK has been immensely enriched through the work of our Muslim community. Muslims have given to British society in a large variety of fields: professional, artistic, in the public service, and in commerce. And the community continues to help us evolve—a practical example is Islamic Banking which is now a thriving market sector with major banks in the UK (e.g. HSBC). Individuals are valued for who they are, and Muslims are playing a large part in making Britain what visitors find when they travel there: a vibrant, modern, secular democracy.

 

(*)

Photostream : Finland’s President Tarja Halonen meets Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Finland's President Tarja Halonen inspects the guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony at Moscow's Vnukovo airport November 8, 2010. Tarja Halonen visits Russia for talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin )

Finland's President Tarja Halonen puts her gloves on upon her arrival at Moscow's Vnukovo airport November 8, 2010. Halonen visits Russia for talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. (Getty Images / REUTERS / Alexander Natruskin )

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (R) talks with his Finland's counterpart Tarja Halonen at the Gorki presidential residence outside Moscow November 8, 2010. (Getty Images / REUTERS / Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin )

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (R), his Finnish counterpart Tarja Halonen (C) and her spouse Pentti Arajarvi meet at the Gorki presidential residence outside Moscow November 8, 2010. (Getty Images / REUTERS / Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin )

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (2nd R) and his wife Svetlana (R) welcome Finland's President Tarja Halonen (2nd L) and her spouse Pentti Arajarvi at the Gorki presidential residence outside Moscow November 8, 2010. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Kremlin )

Dmitry Medvedev, Tarja Halonen have informal meeting

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (2nd R) and his wife Svetlana (R) welcome Finland's President Tarja Halonen (2nd L) and her spouse Pentti Arajarvi at the Gorki presidential residence outside Moscow November 8, 2010.

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MOSCOW, November 8 (KATAKAMI / Itar-Tass) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Finnish President Tarja Halonen had an informal meeting in Moscow on Monday, November 8.

Halonen has arrived in Russia on a state visit.

“The schedule of Tarja Halonen’s state visit began with an informal meeting with Dmitry Medvedev,” the presidential press service said. “The leaders exchanged greetings and conversed briefly, after which the head of the Russian state invited his Finnish colleague to an informal supper.”

“The wife of the Russian president, Svetlana Medvedev, and the husband of the Finnish head of state, Pentti Arajarvi, participated in the conversation along with the presidents,” the press service said.

On Tuesday, the presidents will continue negotiations in an official setting. They will meet in a narrow circle first and will be joined by members of their delegations later on.

Medvedev and Halonen will speak about the results of the talks at a joint press conference.

In Spain, Pope calls Europe to open itself to God

Pope Benedict XVI walks with his pastoral staff outside the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010. The Pope consecrated La Sagrada Familia, the Barcelona landmark designed by Antoni Gaudi, whose construction began in 1882 and continues today. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Osservatore Romano, HO)

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Barcelona, Spain, Nov 8, 2010 / 08:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI used his weekend pilgrimage to Spain, Nov. 6-7, to outline his vision for the “re-evangelization” not only of Spain, but of Europe and the West.

From his first words to his last, the Pope’s message was focused on drawing from Spain’s Christian roots — the great legacy of saints such as John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, and Francis Xavier — and nourishing what he called a “faith sown already at the dawn of Christianity, one which blossomed and grew in the warmth of countless examples of holiness, giving rise to countless institutions of beneficence, culture and education.”

The Pope set the tone for his trip on the flight to Santiago. He spoke of what has emerged as a central theme of his pontificate, the “challenge of secularism” in the West and the need for the Church to confront it.

In his arrival speech, the Pope once more sounded the theme: “I too wish to encourage Spain and Europe to build their present and to project their future on the basis of the authentic truth about man, on the basis of the freedom which respects this truth and never harms it, and on the basis of justice for all, beginning with the poorest and the most defenseless,” he said. “A Spain and a Europe concerned not only with people’s material needs but also with their moral and social, spiritual and religious needs, since all these are genuine requirements of our common humanity and only in this way can work be done effectively, integrally and fruitfully for man’s good.”

Although Spain still counts nearly three-quarters of its population as Catholic, less than 15 percent of the nation’s more than 40 million people participate in Church life.

Pope Benedict hit repeatedly on the importance of upholding the value of human life in all forms, especially those who are most vulnerable as a key part of the Catholic message to a secularized society.

Medicine should never be used in ways that are disrespectful for human life and dignity, the Pope explained. He called for state aid for the “sacred and inviolable” lives of children from the moment of their conception. He also encouraged social and economic assistance for women so that they can find “full development” at home or work, support for men and women in their marriages, and assistance for growing families.

Strong and faithful families are necessary to the future and vitality of society, the Pope said, calling “the renewal of the family as society’s fundamental cell” the “great theme” of today.

In a Mass celebrated for 7,000 faithful in Santiago’s Obradoiro Square on the first day of the trip, the Pope used his homily to again urge a renewed struggle against secularism. “Europe must open itself to God, must come to meet him without fear, and work with his grace for that human dignity which was discerned by her best traditions,” he said.

There is a need, he added, “to hear God once again under the skies of Europe.” He hoped that “this holy word not be spoken in vain,” and that it would not serve purposes other than its own. “It needs to be spoken in a holy way. And we must hear it in this way in ordinary life, in the silence of work, in brotherly love and in the difficulties that years bring on.”

In Barcelona on the second day of the journey, during the dedication Mass to consecrate the altar of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, Pope Benedict drew inspiration from the architect Antoni Gaudi’s vision in building his masterpiece. He referred to the dedication of the church as “an event of great importance” in the context of “a time in which man claims to be able to build his life without God, as if God had nothing to say to him.”

Gaudi’s masterpiece “shows us that God is the true measure of man, that the secret of authentic originality consists … in returning to one’s origin which is God,” said Benedict XVI.

In Santiago, the Holy Father spoke of the Church as a companion of man on the journey in search of truth, “yearning for complete fulfillment.”

The words that followed could be considered the core of his message for the “new evangelization” of Spain and the West. The Church’s mission, he said, is “to be among men and women an ever greater presence of Christ.”

Analysts said the Pope’s words found a welcome among the Spanish faithful. Father Daniel Lorenzo, who heads a Spanish Church commission on art and culture, took part in the celebrations at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. He told CNA that the Pope’s message was one asking the people to live in an ever more intense communion within the Church and also with him as the Successor of Peter.

The Pope called them to return to the faith, “with rigor, ” Father Lorenzo said, and after Mass, “to approach these times and the future with strength and courage, united in the faith and in dialogue with God.”

Having attended the consecration of the newest basilica in the Catholic Church, Fr. Juan Rubio Fernandez, director of Spain’s Catholic Magazine “Vida Nueva,” told CNA that the act was “very symbolic” in being an important religious act in a “highly secularized area.” It was a call to courage to all Spanish to live their faith openly, not “defending” it but “proposing” it to society, he said.

To live and transmit the message of transcendence, considering something beyond this earth, is thus a type of “goal” Spain’s Catholics have taken from the act, he added. The dedication Mass also had strong symbolism for society as proof that faith and secularism can live together and have a common place in society, he said.

And, while this message has been pronounced by the Pope during other trips to widely secular parts of Europe like London, Paris or Prague, giving it in Barcelona, where there is a “strong impulse to the aggressive secularism is significant,” said the priest.

In this context, he said, the Church’s new evangelization through the new pontifical council does not wish to be a new form of “crusade,” rather, it is “a rebirth of the faith.”  (*)

Photostream : Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrives with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations Headquarters in New York November 8, 2010. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton )

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signs a guest book before meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (out of frame) November 8, 2010 at UN headquarters in New York. (Photo by STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, greets United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations, Monday, Nov. 8, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd-L) meets with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (R) at U.N. headquarters November 8, 2010 in New York City. Israeli media reported that Netanyahu will announce the Israeli withdrawal from Ghajar, a village straddling the Lebanese-Israeli border. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

PM Netanyahu’s Speech at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speech at the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in New Orleans, Monday, Nov. 8, 2010.

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November 08, 2010 (KATAKAMI / PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE) — The story of the Jewish people is that of great destruction followed by miraculous redemption.

That same resilient spirit is exemplified by your collective efforts to help this great city rebuild itself after Hurricane Katrina.

Just as you have rallied time after time to help Israel weather the storms it has faced, you rallied to help New Orleans to get back on its feet.

You should be proud of what you have been doing for the Jewish people and the Jewish state, and for others.  I am doubly proud to be with you here today.  Thank you.

On the eve of the 20th century, Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, foresaw the great challenges that stood before the dispersed Jewish people.  He charted a clear path to direct the Jewish destiny to the safer shores of a Jewish state.  Herzl’s vision was guided by three principles: Recognize perils, seize opportunities, forge unity.

These same three principles should guide us at the dawn of the 21st century.  We must recognize the dangers facing us and work to thwart them.  We must seize the opportunity for prosperity and for peace with those of our neighbors who want peace.  And we must forge unity among our people to shoulder these monumental tasks.

The greatest danger facing Israel and the world is the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.  Iran threatens to annihilate Israel.  It denies the Holocaust.  It sponsors terror.  It confronts America in Afghanistan and Iraq.  It dominates Lebanon and Gaza.  It establishes beachheads in Arabia and in Africa.  It even spreads its influence into this hemisphere, into South America.

Now, this is what Iran is doing without nuclear weapons.  Imagine what it would do with them.
Imagine the devastation that its terror proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas and others, would wreak under an Iranian nuclear umbrella.

This is why Israel appreciates President Obama’s successful efforts to have the UN Security Council adopt new sanctions against Iran.  It values American efforts to successfully mobilize other countries to pass tough sanctions of their own.  There is no doubt that these sanctions are putting strong economic pressures on the Iranian regime.

But we have yet to see any signs that the tyrants of Tehran are reconsidering their pursuit of nuclear weapons.  The only time that Iran suspended its nuclear program was for a brief period in 2003 when the regime believed it faced a credible threat of military action against it.  And the simple paradox is this: if the international community, led by the United States, hopes to stop Iran’s nuclear program without resorting to military action, it will have to convince Iran that it is prepared to take such action.   Containment will not work against Iran.  It won’t work with a brazen regime that accuses America of bombing its own cities on 9/11, openly calls for Israel’s annihilation, and is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.

When faced with such a regime, the only responsible policy is to prevent it from developing atomic bombs in the first place.  The bottom line is this: Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped.  Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest danger we face.  The assault on Israel’s legitimacy is another.

We know from our history that attacks on the Jews were often preceded by attempts to dehumanize the Jewish people – to paint them as vile criminals, as the scourge of humanity.   This is why the attempts by our enemies and their misguided fellow travelers to delegitimize the Jewish state must be countered.

Herzl was right about many things.   He was right about the conflagration that would soon engulf Europe.  He was right about the need for a Jewish state and for a Jewish army to defend that state.

Yet Herzl was too optimistic in believing that the rebirth of the Jewish state would gradually put an end to anti-Semitism.

The establishment of Israel did not end the hatred towards the Jews.  It merely redirected it.  The old hatred against the Jewish people is now focused against the Jewish state.  If in the past Jews were demonized, singled out or denied the rights that were automatically granted to others, today in many quarters Israel is demonized, singled out and denied the rights automatically granted to other nations, first and foremost the right of self-defense.

For too many, Israel is guilty until proven guilty.  The greatest success of our detractors is when Jews start believing that too – we’ve seen that today.

Last year, at the UN General Assembly, I spoke out against the travesty of the Goldstone Report, which falsely accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza two years ago.  The United States, led by President Obama, and Canada, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, stood by Israel’s side against this blood libel.  Many countries didn’t.

Well, last week, Hamas finally admitted that over 700 of its fighters in Gaza were killed by the IDF during that war.  This is precisely what the Israeli army said all along – that roughly 50% of the casualties of the war were Hamas terrorists.   Such a high percentage of enemy combatants and such a low percentage of unintended civilian casualties is remarkable in modern urban warfare.  It is even more remarkable when fighting an enemy that deliberately and shamelessly embeds itself next to schools and inside mosques and hospitals.

The authors of the Goldstone Report owe the Israeli army an apology.  And all those who supported and helped spread this libel owe the State of Israel an apology.  The best way to counter lies is with the truth.  That is why I commend your decision to establish the Israel Action Network and dedicate resources to fight this battle for truth.   We must fight these lies and slanders together to ensure that truth prevails.

The threat from Iran and its proxies, and the continued assault on Israel’s legitimacy are great perils we must thwart.

Now let me speak about two great opportunities we must seize: peace and prosperity.

The opportunity today to achieve a broader Israeli-Arab peace derives not exclusively but mainly from the perception of a common threat.  Today, Arab governments and many throughout the Arab world understand that Iran is a great danger to them as well.  This understanding opens up new possibilities for a broader peace that could support our efforts to reach peace with our Palestinian neighbors.

Israelis want to see that the Palestinians are as committed as they are to ending the conflict once and for all.  They want to know that just as we are ready to recognize a state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians are ready to recognize Israel as the state for the Jewish people.

Israel also wants a secure peace.  We do not want to vacate more territory only to see Iran walk in and fire thousands of rockets at our cities.  That is exactly what happened after we left Lebanon and Gaza.  We don’t want to see rockets and missiles streaming into a Palestinian state and placed on the hills above Tel Aviv and the hills encircling Jerusalem.  If Israel does not maintain a credible security presence in the Jordan Valley for the foreseeable future, this is exactly what will happen.

I will not let that happen.

We do not want security on paper.  We want security on the ground.  Real security.  I am willing to make mutual compromises for a genuine peace with the Palestinians, but I will not gamble with the security of the Jewish state.  Palestinian leaders who say they want to live peacefully alongside Israel should sit down and negotiate peace with Israel.  They should stop placing preconditions and start negotiating peace.   The Palestinians may think they can avoid negotiations.  They may think that the world will dictate Palestinian demands to Israel.  I firmly believe that will not happen because I am confident that friends of Israel, led by the United States, will not let that happen.  There is only one path to peace – that is through a negotiated settlement.

We should spend the next year trying to reach an historic agreement for peace and not waste time arguing about marginal issues that will not affect the final peace map in any way.  I am confident that if there is goodwill on the Palestinian side, a formula can be found that will enable peace talks to continue.  I believe that if we succeed, and I always like to confound the skeptics, and I continue to do that systematically, I believe that peace would unleash tremendous economic opportunities for Israelis, Palestinians, and peoples throughout the region.

But as the last years have shown, Israel has not waited for peace to seize the opportunity to develop a strong economy.  As Prime Minister, then as finance minister and now again as Prime Minister, I have spent a great deal of time advancing economic reforms and removing obstacles to Israel’s economic growth – and I have the political scars to prove it.  The reforms that we have been enacting have changed Israel’s economy beyond recognition.  We are now building fast roads and rail lines that crisscross the country, to connect the Negev and the Galilee to the center of the country.  I intend to complete a rail line that will link the Red Sea with the Mediterranean and the Jordan River to the Port of Haifa.  This will enable Israel to take advantage of its strategic location as more and more goods are shipped from East to West.

As the world economy becomes more competitive, Israel is well placed to succeed.  We are global leaders in high technology.  Our scientists win Nobel Prizes.  Our innovations in science, medicine, water, energy, communication, agriculture and in many other fields are literally changing the world.

Israel is a wellspring of technological, artistic and cultural creativity.  Today, Israel is ranked 15th in the world in terms of quality of life – by the UN – so you knows we are at least 15th.  And if that does not impress the young people in the audience, here’s something else that might.  For those of you planning to travel world, Lonely Planet just ranked Tel Aviv the 3rd most exciting city in the world.  I don’t agree – that of course is Jerusalem.  Still, Israel’s best economic days are ahead.

If we hope to thwart and dangers and seize opportunities, we must strengthen our unity.  The best way to strengthen Jewish unity is to strengthen Jewish identity.  By deepening our connection to our shared past, we fortify our bonds to one another and to our state, and thereby strengthen our common future.  That is why this year I decided to initiate a national Heritage Plan that will restore and renovate hundreds of Jewish and Israeli sites throughout the country.

I want young people to visit the place where David Ben Gurion declared our independence just as I want them to visit the place where our patriarchs and matriarchs, the mothers and fathers of the Jewish nation, are buried.  Talk about distortions, can you imagine that UNESCO tried to deny the Jewish connection to Rachel’s Tomb next to Jerusalem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron?  This absurdity to try to erase our past will fail as we reconnect a new generation of Jews with their history.  Our young people will know that we are not foreign interlopers in our own homeland.  They will know something that our enemies and politicized international bodies cannot bring themselves to admit:  The Jewish people are not strangers in the Land of Israel.   Israel is our home.  It has always been our home and it will always be our home.

I have also decided to enhance Israel’s support for programs that strengthen Jewish identity in the Diaspora.  In my first term as Prime Minister, I decided to invest Israeli government funds in what many then thought was a preposterous idea – that we would pay for young Jews to come on short visits to Israel.  Since then, a quarter of a million Jews have come to Israel on Birthright programs, and we will continue.  I am committed to working with Birthright, Masa and Lapid to ensure that every young Jew who wants to can come to Israel.

And I am committed to working with Natan Sharansky and the Jewish Agency to strengthen Jewish identity in the Diaspora.

I know that there are controversial issues that threaten to divide us.  We need to resolve these issues in a spirit of compromise and tolerance.   As Prime Minister of Israel, I promise you that I will not permit anything to undermine the unity of our people.  Israel must always be a place that each and every one of you can call home.  Our unity is a critical foundation of our collective strength.  The more we speak with one voice, the more that voice will be heard.  And in a rapidly changing world, it needs to be heard loud and clear.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the fantastic rise of Asia challenges many nations, but it is not a danger.  It is a natural shift in global wealth and power that is lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.  The great danger we face is not from the battle between East and West but from the aggressive force wedged between them that is spreading its tentacles far and wide.  That force is radical Islam, whose fanaticism and savagery knows no bounds.  If I can leave you with one message, it is that we must warn others of this peril.

History shows that the most advance weapons were usually developed by the most advanced societies.  Yet today, primitive and barbaric tyrannies that stone women, hang gays, promote terror worldwide, send bombs to synagogues, and advance the most fanatical doctrines can acquire nuclear weapons.  If not stopped, this means that the greatest nightmare of all – nuclear terrorism – can become a reality.  The civilized world must not let that happen.

As we continue to build a modern and democratic Israel and as we seek peace with all our neighbors, we must also warn the world about this formidable peril.  In standing up for modernity against medievalism, the Jewish people and the Jewish state play a vital role in securing our common civilization.  And by helping dispel the shadows of a dark despotism, we can truly fulfill our destiny to be a beacon of light and progress unto all the nations. (*)

Hamas slams German foreign minister’s refusal to meet

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (4th R) stands in front of students during a visit to a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Gaza City November 8, 2010. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

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Militant group furious at snub from Guido Westerwelle during Gaza visit.

November 08, 2010 (KATAKAMI / HAARETZ) — The Hamas administration in the Gaza on Monday slammed as “insulting” the refusal by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to meet it while visiting the strip.

Senior Hamas leader and legislator Kamal Shrafi said that while the Islamist Palestinian movement welcomed a visit by an official of his standing, it was “completely wrong to come to Gaza and not meet with the legal government’s representative.”

Westerwelle is the first German government official to visit the Gaza Strip in nearly four years. On Monday, he visited a girls’ school and toured a water treatment plant.

He said he would not meet Hamas over its repeated refusal to renounce violence, honour previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and accept Israel’s right to resist. Hamas, which has administered the Gaza Strip since June 2007, is subject to a Western diplomatic boycott.

“We really condemn the refusal of officials and diplomats to hold talks with the Palestinian government, which was legally elected with transparency by the Palestinian people. Every official arriving in Gaza did not meet with anybody here, and this is really
insulting,” Shrafi said.

Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, but a unity government set up with President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party was dismissed after Hamas militants routed security officials loyal to Abbas and the Palestinian Authority and seized full control of the enclave.

Abbas also dismissed Hamas leader Ismail Haniya from his post of prime minister, a dismissal Hamas did not accept.

“We are legal government, and I believe that it is completely wrong to come to Gaza and not meet with the legal government’s representatives,” Shrafi said.

Westerwelle also met with Gaza businessmen Monday to discuss economic problems in the enclave, which has been under an Israeli blockade since the summer of 2006.

At a press conference along with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem following his arrival on Sunday, Westerwelle called on Israel to allow exports to leave Gaza, saying such a move was “necessary.”

Israel imposed its blockade after militants from the enclave, led by Hamas, launched a raid in which they snatched an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who is still being held.

The blockade was significantly tightened after the Hamas seizure of the Strip, but was eased in the summer of this year, although Israel still does not permit exports to leave.(*)

Germany’s Foreign Minister called on Hamas to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, during a visit to the Gaza Strip

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (L) stands next to Noam Shalit, father of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, at the start of their meeting in Jerusalem November 7, 2010. Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants who tunnelled from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel in June 2006. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun )

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November 08, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Jpost) — Westerwelle says his country sees speedy return of soldier to his family as humane step; comments come a day after meetings with Noam Schalit, Lieberman, Shimon Peres in J’lem.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Monday called on Hamas to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, during a visit to the Gaza Strip.

He urged the terror group to “finally free this young man, after so many years in captivity.”

Westerwelle says his country sees speedy return of soldier to his family as humane step; comments come a day after meetings with Noam Schalit, Lieberman, Peres in J’lem.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Monday called on Hamas to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, during a visit to the Gaza Strip.

He urged the terror group to “finally free this young man, after so many years in captivity.”

Westerwelle stressed that Germany views the speedy return of Schalit to his family as the humane step.

His comments came a day after a meeting with the soldier’s father, Noam Schalit, as well as President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat in Jerusalem.

During a press conference after their Sunday meeting, Lieberman said that the biggest threat to the Middle East is Iran.

“Not only Iran with its nuclear problem, but Iran through its proxies in its terrorist activity in all our regions. We see Iranian activities through proxies in Lebanon through Hizbullah, in the Palestinian Authority through Hamas, their deep involvement in Iraq, in Yemen, in Somalia and, of course, this threat may be the biggest threat that we are facing as a Western society, as a free society in the modern world,” Lieberman told his German counterpart.

He also said that while Israel has a “political dispute” with the Palestinians, it also has “very good cooperation with the Palestinians on the security level and on economy.”

Westerwelle referred to Schalit, saying that Germany has an “abolultely clear position” that the soldier be “released very soon.”

“We think that our Israeli friends know that they can count on us. And I do not want to comment any further because it is very important that we help the family, that we help this poor young man and that we see him as soon as possible, safe and healthy, back in the arms of his family,” the German foreign minister said.  (*)

Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano causes more flight chaos

Indonesia's Mount Merapi spews massive hot clouds of volcanic ash and rocks as seen from Sleman district in central Java on November 6. Airlines cancelled dozens of flights to and from Jakarta, affecting international carriers from Europe to Asia, because of the volcanic ash. (AFP/SONNY TUMBELAKA)

Flights to Jakarta Canceled Over Volcano

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November 08, 2010. JAKARTA (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama’s twice-postponed visit to Indonesia looked on track on Monday after flights to the capital returned to normal following a weekend of disruptions caused by a deadly volcano.

Mount Merapi in central Java began spewing lava, superheated gas and deadly clouds of ash two weeks ago, and has so far killed over 130 people and forced the evacuation of nearly 300,000.

Dozens of flights to and from the capital Jakarta, around 600 km (375 miles) from the volcano, were cancelled over the weekend after the volcano belched fresh clouds of volcanic ash 6,000 metres (19,000 ft) into the atmosphere.

Indonesian authorities saying conditions were safe, but international airlines scrapped scores of flights.

By Monday afternoon normal service had mostly resumed, though Filipino budget airline Cebu Air Inc said it had cancelled its 9.30 p.m. (1330 GMT) flight to Jakarta.

“All have returned to normal,” said Andang Santoso, a spokesman for the operator of Jakarta’s Sukarno-Hatta airport. “They trust us that there is no impact of Merapi here, so they can fly here.”

Authorities did, however, order the closure of the airport at Yogyakarta, the historic cultural city closest to the volcano.

“Since the weather is impossible … we decided to close Yogyakarta for both commercial and civil aircrafts,” said Harjoso Tjandra, operational and technical director at the airport.

On Sunday, U.S. officials said they were closely monitoring the situation ahead of Obama’s scheduled Tuesday arrival.

Obama has twice postponed visits to Indonesia — where he lived for several years as a child with his mother — the first time in March as he struggled to push through a healthcare reform bill in the U.S. and the second in June after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A British Airways flight came close to crashing nearly three decades ago after its engines sucked in ash from another Indonesian volcano, Mount Galunggung, about 180 km southeast of Jakarta.

Indonesia’s disaster agency said clouds of hot toxic gases continued to roll down the slopes of Merapi on Monday, hampering efforts to create a 20 km (12 miles) exclusion zone around the summit.

The country is also struggling with the aftermath of a tsunami in the remote Mentawai islands off Sumatra last week that killed at least 445 people.

Metro TV footage showed an aerial view of Borobudur, site of one of the world’s largest Buddhist temples and a UNESCO heritage site about 50 km northwest of the volcano coated with ash. (*)

Photostream : Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano still spews volcanic ash on Monday, death toll reaches165

A villager watches from Jambon village in the Sleman district of Indonesia's central Java province, as Mount Merapi spews smoke and ash, November 8, 2010. The death toll from the eruption of Mount Merapi, reaching 165 people. A total of 148 victims came from Yogyakarta, and 17 people from Central Java. The data was presented the Special Staff of the Presidential Disaster Area, Andi Arif, Monday (8 / 11), Metro TV reported on Monday. Data obtained from Dr. Sardjito Hospital, Yogyakarta. To reach the 453 people injured. The average victims died of burns suffered from hot clouds. It happened the first time since the Merapi eruption on October 26, 2010 ( Photo by REUTERS/Sigit Pamungkas )

Mount Merapi spews volcanic ash into the air as seen from Cangkringan, Indonesia, Monday, Nov. 8, 2010. The death toll from the eruption of Mount Merapi, reaching 165 people. A total of 148 victims came from Yogyakarta, and 17 people from Central Java. The data was presented the Special Staff of the Presidential Disaster Area, Andi Arif, Monday (8 / 11), Metro TV reported on Monday. Data obtained from Dr. Sardjito Hospital, Yogyakarta. To reach the 453 people injured. The average victims died of burns suffered from hot clouds. It happened the first time since the Merapi eruption on October 26, 2010 ( Photo by AP Photo/Trisnadi)

Indonesia's Mount Merapi volcano spews smoke and ash, as seen from Jambon village in the Sleman district of Indonesia's central Java province November 8, 2010. Mount Merapi, on the outskirts of Yogyakarta, began spewing lava, superheated gas and deadly clouds of ash two week ago and has so far killed over 130 people and forced the evacuation of nearly 300,000. REUTERS/Sigit Pamungkas

Mount Merapi spews ash to the sky as seen from Cangkringan in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on November 8, 2010. International airlines were forced to reschedule dozens of flights to Indonesia yesterday as deadly Mount Merapi spewed ash into the sky, ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama. The toll from a series of eruptions since late October rose to 132 as bodies were pulled from the volcanic sludge that thundered down on central Java on November 5, Merapi's biggest eruption since the 1870s. (Photo by BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian army special forces wearing masks prepare to evacuate the victims of Mount Merapi eruption at Pejambon in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on November 8, 2010. International airlines were forced to reschedule dozens of flights to Indonesia yesterday as deadly Mount Merapi spewed ash into the sky, ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama. The toll from a series of eruptions since late October rose to 132 as bodies were pulled from the volcanic sludge that thundered down on central Java on November 5, Merapi's biggest eruption since the 1870s. (Photo by BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

Ashes from the eruption of Mount Merapi cover Muntilan city, central Java, on November 8, 2010. Indonesia's Mount Merapi volcano killed 85 people in its latest eruption, with scores more suffering severe burns, an official said on November 6, bringing the overall toll to 128. (Photo by BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

Merapi Ground Heat Forces Indonesia to Halt Search for Bodies

Mount Merapi erupting again on Monday. (AFP Photo/Bay Ismoyo)

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November 08, 2010. Indonesia (KATAKAMI – THE JAKARTA GLOBE) — Indonesian rescue workers were forced to abandon efforts to retrieve bodies of victims from the Nov. 5 eruption of Mount Merapi in central Java, as increasing ground temperature and volcanic instability made it unsafe to continue.

Rescuers had been using wooden boards to walk on in areas where the soil reached temperatures higher than 70 degrees Celsius, Oka Hamid, a spokesman at Red Cross Indonesia’s Yogyakarta branch, said today.

“We found five bodies at Glagaharjo village, but only one was removed,” Hamid said by phone. “We are coming down now because the ground there is too hot and Merapi is unstable.”

Non-flammable boots and special gloves are needed to protect rescuers from hot burning soil, Hamid said.

“We need at least 30 pair of gloves and boots,” he said. “Non-flammable boots are important in case we need to flee if anything bad happened.”

The death toll since the volcano began erupting Oct. 26 rose to 141 from 135 yesterday, with about 280,000 people seeking shelter in evacuation centers outside the 20-kilometer safety zone from Mount Merapi, the National Disaster Management Agency said in a statement on its Web site today.

Merapi, which means mountain of fire, has been spewing hot ash clouds for two weeks, stretching rescue efforts as villagers defy safety orders to tend to their cattle stranded on the mountain’s slopes. The volcano may release hot ash for about two months, Subandriyo, an official at the Energy Ministry’s Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Center, said on Nov. 3.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono returned to Jakarta today, ahead of United States President Barrack Obama visit on Nov. 9-10, after spending two days in Yogyakarta to directly overseeing Merapi relief efforts.

Obama is scheduled to fly to Jakarta from India tomorrow, for a brief trip to the world’s largest majority-Muslim country, where he spent part of his childhood.

“The Embassy fully expects President Obama to arrive on Nov. 9 as scheduled,” Paul T. Belmont, press attaché at the United States Embassy in Jakarta, said in an e-mailed statement today. “The Merapi eruptions have not altered his plan to visit Indonesia.”

At least nine airlines including Singapore Airlines Ltd., Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Japan Airlines Corp. resumed services yesterday after suspending them for one day for safety reasons due to volcanic ash from Merapi, Frans Yosef, an officer at Angkasa Pura II, the operator of Soekarno-Hatta international airport, said on Sunday.

Philippine Airlines Inc., Emirates, Eva Airways Corp. and Valuair Ltd. resumed services to Jakarta today, the operator said on its Web site today.


Bloomberg

Photostream : Indonesian Elite Forces (Kopassus) and rescue team evacuated the victims of Mount Merapi eruption

Indonesian army special forces wears masks as they prepare to evacuate the victims of Mount Merapi eruption at Pejambon in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on November 8, 2010. International airlines were forced to reschedule dozens of flights to Indonesia yesterday as deadly Mount Merapi spewed ash into the sky, ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama. The toll from a series of eruptions since late October rose to 132 as bodies were pulled from the volcanic sludge that thundered down on central Java on Friday, Merapi's biggest eruption since the 1870s. (Photo by BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian army special forces wear masks as they search for victims of Mount Merapi eruption at Pejambon in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on November 8, 2010. International airlines were forced to reschedule dozens of flights to Indonesia yesterday as deadly Mount Merapi spewed ash into the sky, ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama. The toll from a series of eruptions since late October rose to 132 as bodies were pulled from the volcanic sludge that thundered down on central Java on Friday, Merapi's biggest eruption since the 1870 (Photo by BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian army special forces and rescue team evacuate a victim of Mount Merapi eruption at Pejambon in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on November 8, 2010. International airlines were forced to reschedule dozens of flights to Indonesia yesterday as deadly Mount Merapi spewed ash into the sky, ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama. The toll from a series of eruptions since late October rose to 132 as bodies were pulled from the volcanic sludge that thundered down on central Java on November 5, Merapi's biggest eruption since the 1870s. (Photo by BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian army special forces and rescue team evacuate a victim of Mount Merapi eruption at Pejambon in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on November 8, 2010. International airlines were forced to reschedule dozens of flights to Indonesia yesterday as deadly Mount Merapi spewed ash into the sky, ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama. The toll from a series of eruptions since late October rose to 132 as bodies were pulled from the volcanic sludge that thundered down on central Java on Friday, Merapi's biggest eruption since the 1870. (Photo by BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian army special forces search for victims of Mount Merapi eruption at Pejambon in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on November 8, 2010. International airlines were forced to reschedule dozens of flights to Indonesia yesterday as deadly Mount Merapi spewed ash into the sky, ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama. The toll from a series of eruptions since late October rose to 132 as bodies were pulled from the volcanic sludge that thundered down on central Java on Friday, Merapi's biggest eruption since the 1870 (Photo by BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian army special forces search for victims of Mount Merapi eruption at Pejambon in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on November 8, 2010. International airlines were forced to reschedule dozens of flights to Indonesia yesterday as deadly Mount Merapi spewed ash into the sky, ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama. The toll from a series of eruptions since late October rose to 132 as bodies were pulled from the volcanic sludge that thundered down on central Java on November 5, Merapi's biggest eruption since the 1870 (Photo by BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

Netanyahu – Biden meeting ends, discussed Iran, Palestinians

Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyau (R) meets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on November 7, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Netanyahu is on a five day visit to the U.S. to discuss the ongoing Mideast peace process. (Photo Avi Ohayon/GPO via Getty Images)

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November 8, 2010 (KATAKAMI/ YNET) — A meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Vice President Joe Biden ended late Sunday night in New Orleans. The two discussed Israel’s desire to provide a credible threat against Iran.

The leaders also spoke of the direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the Israeli claim being that as long as the Palestinians have recourse to an indirect route, such as the UN, they will not behave seriously in talks. (*)

PM Netanyahu tells Biden: Peace agreement must not be forced on us from above

Vice President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. VP Joe Biden on sidelines of Jewish General Assembly in New Orleans; says that Palestinians must be stopped from taking unilateral action to establish a state.

November 08, 2010. NEW ORLEANS (KATAKAMI / HAARETZ) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday night to discuss Iran and the peace process with the Palestinians, beyond the immediate question of the settlement construction freeze, sources said Sunday.

They said the two leaders addressed what must be done so that the peace process will move forward, including security arrangements needed.

Netanyahu said there must be an agreement that is not forced on the parties from above and that the Palestinians must not attempt to circumvent negotiations by declaring statehood through the United Nations, the sources said.

Netanyahu and Biden were speaking on the sidelines of the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly convention, held in New Orleans this year.

The sources said Netanyahu spoke about the need to get Arab countries involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, because that will give Israel a security buffer and political backing.

Netanyahu denies that there is a rift between Israel and the United States, or between Israelis and American Jews, according to the sources.

He reportedly said that the U.S. Congress was positive toward Israel before the November 2 midterm elections and will be positive toward Israel afterward as well. He said there is also fundamental support for Israel within the United States, saying, “We may have lost Thomas Friedman, but I don’t think we lost America,” according to the sources.

As in the past, Netanyahu said that Israel has done enough to prove that it is serious, while the Palestinians have not taken any steps to demonstrate their seriousness about peace, the sources said.

Unfriendly welcome

Participants in the GA who listened to local radio in New Orleans on Sunday could have heard Scott Sekulow, a Messianic Christian who was born Jewish and calls himself a rabbi, who praised Netanyahu, enthused over Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for standing up to the Europeans, and declared that the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state shows that they don’t have peaceful intentions. Sekulow is raising money to plant 1,000 trees in the Golan Heights to replace trees that he said were destroyed by Katyusha rockets during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Amidst the conference hotels straddling Canal Street where GA sessions are being held, the 4,000 Jewish leaders and activists have also confronted a less-than-friendly welcome from a group of demonstrators holding placards accusing Jews of killing Jesus and anti-Semitic chants referring to the theft of private investor money by convicted Ponzi scheme operator Bernard Madoff. One demonstrator wore an apron made of a blood-stained Israeli flag. The GA participants didn’t seem overly upset by the spectacle and mounted police were on hand to maintain order.

The results of this month’s American midterm elections were the grist for hallway conversation at the GA, and there were also a number of people who asserted that Jewish life in the United States could not be reduced to the tenor of relations between the Prime Minister’s Office and the White House.

(*)

Photostream : Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu meets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden

Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu (R) meets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on November 7, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Netanyahu is on a five day visit to the U.S. to discuss the ongoing Mideast peace process. (Photo Avi Ohayon/GPO via Getty Images)

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) speaks with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting on Middle East security in New Orleans, Louisiana November 7, 2010. Netanyahu will tell Biden on Sunday that only a credible military threat can deter Iran from building a nuclear weapon, Israeli political sources said. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Lee Celano )

Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyau (R) meets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on November 7, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Netanyahu is on a five day visit to the U.S. to discuss the ongoing Mideast peace process. (Photo Avi Ohayon/GPO via Getty Images)

Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyau (R) meets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on November 7, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Netanyahu is on a five day visit to the U.S. to discuss the ongoing Mideast peace process. (Photo Avi Ohayon/GPO via Getty Images)

Turkish ministry confirms Iran’s plans to resume talks with West

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

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November 07, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed Teheran’s plans to resume talks with the group of six international mediators over its controversial nuclear program on the territory of Turkey.

The talks are expected to be held in Istanbul on November 10 or 15, Turkish Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said.

“In the last two or three days, we informed our Turkish friends that we agree to hold negotiations in Turkey,” Mottaki said.

“I hope we will reach an agreement soon over the date and the contents,” he said. “We are very optimistic the discussions will start as soon as possible, as the overall approach of Iran is positive and constructive.”

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, said in October that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, had agreed to resume the talks “in a place and on a date convenient to both sides.” She added that the talks would take place after November 10.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in October Tehran was ready for a new round of talks but only on a number of conditions, including a comment by the Iran Six (the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany) on Israel’s nuclear capability.

Talks between Tehran and the Iran Six came to a halt in 2009, after an IAEA resolution condemned the Islamic Republic over the construction of a second uranium enrichment facility.

The United Nations Security Council imposed a fourth set of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program in June.

ANKARA, November 7 (RIA Novosti)

 

Incentives for settlement freeze likely on agenda as Netanyahu heads for U.S.

File photo : US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks on as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a meeting in Washington, DC, on August 31, 2010. The Obama administration geared up for a bold bid to relaunch direct Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and clinch a peace deal within a year as Middle East leaders arrived in Washington. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

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Netanyahu envoy arrived in Washington earlier this week to meet chief Palestinian negotiator on ways to renew negotiations.

November 07, 2010 (KATAKAMI/ HAARETZ) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to leave for the United States Saturday night to address the Jewish Federations’ General Assembly in New Orleans.

Netanyahu will not be meeting President Barack Obama, who is in India, but he will meet with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Americans are expected to tell Netanyahu that their package of diplomatic and security incentives is still on the table if he agrees to renew the freeze on construction in the settlements.

Netanyahu’s flight to the U.S. reportedly cost the state more than $1 million, because it is a direct flight from Ben-Gurion International Airport to New Orleans. El Al was selected to fly the prime minister without a tender.

The administration’s involvement in the Middle East peace process has been almost nil in recent weeks as they attempted to shore up support at home ahead of last week’s midterm elections. However, Netanyahu’s envoy Isaac Molho arrived in Washington three days ago for a meeting with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on ways to renew negotiations and possibility of refreezing construction in the settlements.

Molho made no progress, but Erekat and the Americans agreed that the Palestinians would wait until the end of November before making another move, such as approaching the UN Security Council with a demand to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu-Rudeina, told Agence France Presse that the Palestinians had given the Americans another three weeks to reach understandings with Israel. If no agreement was forthcoming by that time, they would approach the Security Council.

Senior American officials, who asked to remain anonymous because of the issue’s sensitivity, told Haaretz at the end of the week that during Netanyahu’s visit another attempt would be made to address the construction freeze gambit.

“Talks with Molho were serious although no solution was found, and we are still trying,” an official said.

The incentive package the Americans offered Israel two months ago includes advanced fighter planes and other security aid, as well as guarantees of a U.S. veto of any attempt at a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood in the Security Council in the coming year.

Although the Americans are reportedly angry at Netanyahu’s refusal to restart the freeze, they apparently do not want to clash with him at this time.

Both Biden and Clinton are expected to press Netanyahu into renewing the freeze and show willingness to move ahead on the issue of borders, but will not accuse him of responsibility for the impasse.

Israeli sources familiar with the U.S. position said American enthusiasm for offering incentives has cooled and that “the formulation of the letter with the guarantees has changed and Netanyahu will not be able to make do with a new two-month freeze.”

Netanyahu did not convene the forum of seven senior ministers before he left, but spoke with some of them individually.

He will be meeting this evening at 8 P.M. Israel time with Biden, who will also be addressing the general assembly.

Netanyahu will leave for New York immediately after his address to the GA tomorrow, to meet with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Netanyahu will meet with senior American economists, industrialists, Jewish leaders and with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell. He will also give a number of television interviews.

On Thursday, Netanyahu is to meet with Clinton.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman and opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima ) will also be attending the GA.

On Tuesday, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit will come to Washington, following separate visits to Ramallah and Tel Aviv over the past 10 days.

The Egyptians, who are working to help Washington restart direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, are pressuring both sides.

The Egyptian leaders will meet with Clinton a day before she meets with Netanyahu.

Washington think tanks have been discussing the best way for Obama to reach a breakthrough. David Makovsky, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said in a speech last week that if Israel wants to avoid a U.S. accusation of responsibility for an impasse with the Palestinians, Netanyahu should change his coalition and include Kadima.

(MS)